LABOUR have suspended an MP from the parliamentary party over alleged racist comments.
Neil Coyle today apologised for what he called “insensitive” remarks he made to a British-Chinese journalist in a Commons bar.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP also said he “apologised to everyone involved”.
Mr Coyle is accused of using Sinophobic language in a conversation with a reporter at Strangers’ Bar, who said it caused him to feel “uncomfortable in my place of work”.
Henry Dyer, who covers politics for the Insider website, reported the alleged comments to the Commons Speaker, who he said took “immediate action” with his staff and suspended Mr Coyle from the bars on the parliamentary estate pending an investigation.
Writing about the incident, Mr Dyer said Mr Coyle had talked about the Labour MP Barry Gardiner receiving money from an alleged Chinese spy, suggesting the money had come from “Fu Manchu”.
When Mr Dyer “pushed back” on the remark, he said Mr Coyle told him “you look like you’ve been giving renminbi [the Chinese currency] to Barry Gardiner”.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously.
“Accordingly, the chief whip has now suspended the Labour whip from Neil Coyle pending an investigation.”
In a subsequent statement, Mr Coyle said: “I’m very sorry for my insensitive comments, have apologised to everyone involved and will be co-operating fully with the investigation.”
It is understood that after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle became aware of Mr Dyer’s allegations, he convened a meeting with the Serjeant at Arms, who ordered that Mr Coyle should be suspended from bars in the Commons for six months.
Authorities in the House of Lords are believed to have taken similar action.
Mr Dyer, who is British-Chinese, said he came into contact with Mr Coyle in Strangers’ Bar on the evening of February 1, after going for Chinese New Year dinner with his family.
He accused the MP of making Sinophobic remarks, which he said made him feel uncomfortable.
Mr Dyer claimed he also witnessed Mr Coyle “angrily shouting at a Labour staffer” in the bar the previous evening.
On the morning of February 3, Mr Dyer said he informed the Speaker what happened.
“The Speaker and his staff took immediate action, in conjunction with the Serjeant at Arms and the House of Lords’ authorities, to suspend Coyle from the bars on the Parliamentary estate pending an investigation by the Labour whips office into the incidents on Monday and Tuesday evening,” he said.
The House of Commons declined to comment.